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The First Canned Beer Went on Sale 78 Years Ago Today

If you've ever drank beer out of a can, you can thank Gottfried Krueger Brewery. They were the first ones, 78 years ago today, to put the tasty beverage in a can and offer it up to consumers

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If you’ve ever drank beer out of a can, you can thank Gottfried Krueger Brewery. They were the first ones, 78 years ago today, to put the tasty beverage in a can and offer it up to consumers. Wired writes:

Krueger had been brewing beer since the mid-1800s, but had suffered from the Prohibition and worker strikes. When American Can approached with the idea of canned beer, it was initially unpopular with Krueger execs. But American Can offered to install the equipment for free: If the beer flopped, Krueger wouldn’t have to pay.

So, in 1935 Krueger’s Cream Ale and Krueger’s Finest Beer were the first beers sold to the public in cans. Canned beer was an immediate success. The public loved it, giving it a 91 percent approval rating.

Compared to glass, the cans were lightweight, cheap, and easy to stack and ship. Unlike bottles, you didn’t have to pay a deposit and then return the cans for a refund. By summer Krueger was buying 180,000 cans a day from American Can, and other breweries decided to follow.

Just think of all the things you couldn’t do had they never filled those aluminum cans with beer? There would be no shotgunning, no crunching the can on your head, no beer can chicken. And, a lot of people would be way less rich. The History Channel says:

Today, canned beer accounts for approximately half of the $20 billion U.S. beer industry. Not all of this comes from the big national brewers: Recently, there has been renewed interest in canning from microbrewers and high-end beer-sellers, who are realizing that cans guarantee purity and taste by preventing light damage and oxidation.

That big business means lots of engineering and development to can a ton of beer as fast as possible. And those higher end breweries, making less beer than the big guys, have to figure out how to do it cost-effectively. How On Earth radio writes:

If you’re a beer drinker, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of cans on liquor store shelves these days. Here in Colorado, and elsewhere, more and more breweries are choosing to put their beer in cans. There are some good reasons for that, as you’ll hear in this segment.

But for the smallest of small breweries, canning can still be a real challenge. It’s expensive, and it takes up a lot of space. Enter Mobile Canning, a Longmont-based company that offers brewers a solution to both of those problems: put the canning line on a truck, and take it to any brewery that needs it. We speak with co-owner Pat Hartman in our Boulder studio.

Of course, designing a fully-automated canning line is no small feat – to say nothing of designing one that can be packed into a delivery truck. For that, we turn to Boulder firm Wild Goose Engineering. Chief Technology Officer Alexis Foreman also joins the conversation.

Whether high end of tailgate style, canned beer is here to stay. So dedicate your next crushed can to Gottfried Kruger.

 

More from Smithsonian.com:

Beer for Dessert
Beer Behemoths, Part One
Turn Your Dead Christmas Tree Into Beer

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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